The Voice Recap: Louder Than a Lion [Updated]
Did you ever get so excited by a primetime network broadcast that you wanted to pick up your TV set and hurl it against a wall* — the way a heavy-metal guitarist in the throes of an arena encore might destroy his instrument to the cheers and whistles of the crowd? (*If your answer is “no,” just ride this recap out till the end of the next paragraph, OK?)
That insane urge swelled up inside me during tonight’s installment of The Voice‘s Season 5 Live Playoffs, prompted by the perfect storm of a fine but somewhat sleepy opening 100 minutes, followed by back-to-back performances that featured all the fire and beauty and excitement of flying a helicopter over a live volcano.
Yeah, I know, I’m neck-deep in hyperbole, but I’m willing to stick said neck out into the internets and say Jacquie Lee and Matthew Schuler absolutely earned such high praise. Their displays of vocal horsepower not only made the second set of Live Playoffs — focused on Team Cee Lo and Team Xtina — worth remembering, but also guaranteed that Season 5 remains must-see TV (even without the presence of Matt Cermanski).
Oh sure, there were the usual moments of subtle (and overt) sabotage: Like weighing down R&B hopeful Amber Nicole with a country tune — then arranging it about a half-step too high for her vocal range — or locking Tamara Chaunice in karaoke prison by way of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” And don’t even get me started on the tragedy of Stephanie Anne Johnson’s ill-tailored belt.
But thanks to Matthew and Jacquie, those moments of pure peevery are the secondary stories, not the headline. With that in mind, let me assign letter grades for tonight’s performances:
TEAM CEE LO
MORTAL LOCK TO ADVANCE
Caroline Pennell: The White Stripes’ “We’re Going to Be Friends” — Grade: A- | Caroline definitely solidified her front-runner status this week with another vocal that was as refreshing and clear as mountain springwater — as well as her ability to add lovely little flourishes to the melody line. Cee Lo, however, needs to be very cautious about limiting his star pupil’s musical color palette to 50 shades of pastel. I won’t pretend I didn’t enjoy hearing Caroline let her precious flag fly again, but Blake’s “cotton candy” critique may have been precient: Man (and reality competition contestants) cannot live on spun sugar alone.
ALMOST DEFINITELY GOING HOME
Amber Nicole: Cassadee Pope’s “Wasting All These Tears” — Grade: D | Poor Amber didn’t just get thown under the bus, she actually wound up under a layer of pavement and then under the bus thanks to Cee Lo’s oddball pop-country song choice and total lack of help in reconfiguring it to fit her R&B diva style. Oddly, the kid didn’t sound too bad in the intermittent moments where the equally terrible arrangement wasn’t forcing her to strain past the upper limits of her register, but maybe it’s best she heads home now. I mean, if Amber somehow advances to next week, I’m worried Cee Lo will assign her Limp Bizkit’s “Nookie” or some other sabotage-minded selection.
COULD GO EITHER WAY, BASED ON CURRENT BUZZ + TONIGHT’S PERFORMANCE
Tamara Chauniece: Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” — Grade: B+ (vocals)/C+ (listening experience) | Is Cee Lo not aware that iTunes sales count toward contestants’ overall success or failure? I mean, seriously, his choice of a threadbare karaoke classic like “I Will Survive” for Tamara was akin to sending a kid out to play in the snow dressed in board shorts and a tank top. That said, Tamara managed to deliver a solid vocal and deliver a few tasty ad-libs — even with the tempo sped up to almost sadistic speed. The question now is whether she’ll somehow get phone and facebook votes from viewers who take a “love the singer/hate the song” approach to fandom. My guess is probably not.